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Full text of "My country and my people"

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spoke sometimes of events, and sometimes of their own feelings,
and having finished what they had to say5 they took leave and departed." The difference between literature and mere writing is only that some say it beautifully and others do not, and they who say it more beautifully than others survive.
The lyrical origin of literature makes it possible for us to regard literature as a reflection of man's soul., and to regard a nation's literature as the reflection of man's spirit in that nation. For if life may be compared to a large city, a man's writing may be regarded as the window in his garret from which he views the city. In reading a man's writing we but wish to look at life from his garret window and obtain a view of life as the writer sees it. The stars, the clouds, the mountain peaks lining the horizon, and the alleyways and housetops in the city are all the same, but that garret view of the city is individualistic and peculiarly his own. In reviewing a nation's literature we are therefore but trying to get a glimpse of life as the best minds of that nation see it and as they express it through their own peculiar medium.
The accident of the Chinese literary medium, or the Chinese language, has largely determined the peculiar development of Chinese literature. By comparison with the European languages it is possible to trace how much of the peculiarities of Chinese thought and literature are due simply to their possession of a so-called monosyllabic language. The fact that the Chinese spoke in syllables like eking, chong, chang was appalling in consequences. This monosyllabism determined the character of the Chinese writing, and the character of the Chinese writing brought about the continuity of the literary heritage and therefore even influenced the conservatism of Chinese thought It was further responsible for the development of a literary language quite distinct from the spoken language. This, in turn, made learning difficult and necessarily the privilege of a limited class- Finally, the monosyllabism directly